Ashton Middle School, Dunstable, has received nearly £10,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund for the project ‘Ashton @ War’.
The ‘First World War: then and now’ project will involve a series of events and activities to mark the 100-year centenary of WW1.
Ashton Middle occupies the site of the former Dunstable Grammar School, which opened in 1888, in High Street North. Like many schools across the land, Dunstable Grammar was devastated by the loss of many of its pupils during the 1914-18 conflict.
The HLF-funded project will remember those who fought during the First World War, utilising the history of the school building to act as a hub to organise commemorative events of the Great War.
This period of time is already covered thoroughly in the school’s curriculum, but the aim is to extend it to the local community and to provide a written record of wartime then and now.
The project will enable parents, pupils, local schoolchildren and residents of the Dunstable area to come together to preserve the memories and heritage of the people who lived through the First World War.
Volunteers will collect photographs, newspaper clippings, documents, letters and photos of keepsakes, as well as family tales passed down, to help them build a clear picture of what life was really like.
A digital record and an on-line interactive archive, as well as an international blog, will be created where everyone can access and contribute information. The archive will allow the public to discuss, contribute, share and research information about the Home Front.
The school’s library will open as a visitors’ centre to host a series of events throughout the year, involving speakers from the local community and beyond.
Headteacher Mrs Lesley Phillips said: “We welcome this great opportunity to involve our local community in celebrating the rich history that our former pupils have made for the freedoms we have in Dunstable today.
“We would like this to be a living experience that truly engages all who take part. The project will culminate with a theatrical production and a commemorative book entitled Ashton @ War. We will be asking the local community to engage in this commemorative project by providing us with any information or memories that they would like to share about their own families’ war experiences.
“Our aim is to bring this period back to life for a year and to give our pupils and all who live in our locality the opportunity to fully understand the effects of the First World War on the families connected to our school.
“It might be 100 years since the war took place, but the lives we lead today are as a consequence of those brave actions. We would like the legacy to live on and to be remembered by all.”